Last weekend our Emerging International Leaders programme on Freedom of Religion or Belief was represented at the G20 Interfaith Summit in Potsdam, Germany.

Our Principal, Edmund Newell, attended the international summit with Ishrat Hussain, a Commonwealth Fellow and doctoral researcher in International Relations at the University of Oxford. Ishrat spoke at a session on Youth Interfaith Engagement about her experiences of taking part in our Emerging International Leaders programme this year.

The Interfaith Summit ran from 15-17 June and involved experts on the economy, law and politics, as well as global leaders and representatives from many different religions and humanitarian workers.

Interfaith action and sustainable development

The Summit highlighted the key role that religion plays in promoting aspects of the United Nations' post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, which Germany will be highlighting at this year's full G20 Summit.

Ed had been invited to speak about the work Cumberland Lodge has been undertaking to assist Yazidi refugees in northern Iraq.

Speaking afterwards, he said, "It is highly encouraging that the work of Cumberland Lodge on social cohesion is being recognised in the international interfaith arena, and our experience in Potsdam will be invaluable for developing our future activities."

In 2005, Ed published What Can One Person Do?: Faith to Heal a Broken World with Sabina Alkire, about progress against the Millennium Sustainable Development Goals that had been agreed at the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000, with a deadline of 2015. The UN is now working towards a new set of post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, to be achieved by 2030.

'The centrality of religious literacy'

Speaking after the Summit, Ishrat said, "The Summit was an excellent opportunity for me to engage in some of the big issues surrounding religion, development and the refugee crisis. I found the panels that focused on religion and business, religion and the media, and faith-based responses to the European refugee crisis, particularly enriching to my understanding of the centrality of religious literacy in public life.  

"All too often, religion is pushed to the sidelines, or not given enough consideration when framing a policy or dealing with a crisis.

"Only when we appreciate the embeddedness of religion - in national identities, in local practices and in the geopolitical conflicts that contribute to the current refugee crisis - do we begin to fully grasp the significance of interfaith dialogue in improving social cohesion." 

She continued, "Whilst speaking at the Youth Interfaith Engagement panel, I had the chance to tell my fellow delegates about how Cumberland Lodge seeks to bring people and communities together  through dialogue and deep interactions. The admirable innovation that the Lodge has shown in engaging with future leaders to debate challenging yet important topics, such as the Freedom of Religion or Belief, struck a chord among other panellists and gave them ideas on how they could incorporate these ideas and values into their own work."

Find out more about the G20 Interfaith Summit here.